Tuesday, April 6, 2010

We missed the details on our previous post, so I am going to fill in the blanks. Many thanks to Jo and Rob of Blue Moon for pictures from the Melaque San Patricio celebrations.

At El Carrizal, Santiago Bay, we met up with Morgana and Blue Moon. Ernie from Morgana took us snorkeling to three sites around this bay aboard his powerful inflatable dinghy. The first site was at the mouth of the bay near a couple of caves where the surf thundered through a blow hole and there was much foaming and frothing. We swam around the edges of the rocky walls, saw some corals and sea fans but not many fish. Ernie saved the best for last – a cabbage patch of coral heads only 4-5 feet below the surface, great visibility, rainbow wrasses darting in and out of the corals.

On March 15th, we said good-bye to Ernie and sailed to the little town of Melaque, whose patron saint is San Patricio, unique in all Mexico. Like the Irish, the Mexicans love partying and drinking. In Melaque, the celebrations start 10-14 days before the actual day and we were just in time.Mexicans from Guadalajara and other cities converge on the town, kids play on the beach, adults drink and dance to loud music into the early morning hours, fireworks exlpode and light up the sky every night. What fun!

We arrived after sunset and set our anchor near some fish pens, following directions from our friends on Blue Moon. The next morning, we paddled to shore, left the kayak in front of a restaurant under the watchful eye of Jose, who promised to protect it from the toddlers. We walked along the little malecon towards our boat and then took a steep trail up to the bluff for a panoramic view of the bay. There was an abandoned restaurant building on the point and a little shrine set up by the owners to the Virgin de la Guadalupe to protect their clients and business - she must have had more important things on her agenda :(

Melaque from the hills behind the town. Ladybug is anchored near the islands in the middle of the picture.

The outer coast above Melaque harbour. No anchorage here!

Taking a dirt road down the hill, we came out by the main highway into Melque and wandered past pastel coloured Mexican homes, army barracks, roadside stalls selling coconuts and cold drinks. We stopped at a couple of hardware and electrical stores to purchase a tiny 4W bulb for our anchor light. Our original bulb, bought in Canada for $6, had only lasted about 3 months. Here, we bought 3 for 50 cents Canadian!

Tasty local candies available from street stalls during the San Patricio celebrations.

In the market, after buying guavas, bananas and a few veggies, we took a seat in front of one of the half dozen family run eateries for comida. An old woman parked in the corner of the counter, abuelita ( grandma ) no doubt, prattled off the menu and did not cease repeating it until we had placed our orders. These market stalls offer really good meals for 3 to 4 dollars -
I usually order chile rellenos ( poblano peppers stuffed with cheese ) which come with a side of beans and rice as well as a variety of fresh salsas and pickles. Delicious!

We walked back to our kayak along the golden sand beach, watching kids burying their papas and gringos taking advantage of the 2 for 1 margaritas.

After 8pm, we paddled back to shore for the evening festivities. Walking into town we came upon the funfair set up near the plaza. Other than a few kids in the bouncing castle, the merry-go-rounds and bumper cars were all empty. Activties start late in Mexico and parents have no qualms about keeping their kids out after midnight. A street market of food stalls and shooting galleries led to the zocalo ( square ). Strangely enough, the largest stall in the centre of the zocalo was selling books, offering everything from fairy tales to Plato. In front of the church was a 40-50 foot tower built of steel wire and rebar. Tiers of Catherine Wheels and sparklers were lashed from top to bottom. The fireworks were supposed to start around 10pm, mas or menos, so we contented ourselves by grazing around the food stalls. I bought some ice-cream while Chris wandered the streets looking for banos ( lucky for him, the ocean was only a few blocks away :)

Families started gathering, toddlers running around chasing balloons and each other, the brass band in the gazebo getting louder. We found space on a low wall around a raised bed of grass and palm trees. Since Jo was afraid of fireworks we had strategically placed ourselves on the opposite side of the plaza from the fireworks tower, knowing that Mexicans do not seem to be restrained by silly things like safety regulations!

Chris and Rani test drive new fuel efficient transportation at the fun fair in Melaque.

Fireworks tower - each wheel spins as the fireworks ignite, then additional fireworks explode from the wheel and the next higher wheel is ignited.

An hour later, we heard the first popping sounds from the tower, wires leading to it started sparkling and fizzing, embers shot into the air. Then the Catherine Wheels began to spin firing mini rockets into the crowds and people dashed for cover under the stalls, shielding their heads with cardboard. We all stood up on our grassy platform to get a better view.

BANG! There was a deafening explosion about 10 feet away from us! Jo clutched Rob, who clutched the nearest palm! Collective screaming! How could we have missed the 44lb garbage can loaded with a rocket canon just below us? The can was even cordoned off with black and yellow security tape. In the air, the rocket bloomed into a gorgeous crimson flower.

More rockets were fired, the fireworks on the tower reached it's apex and a mini helicopter lifted off , flew a few hundred yards and landed in the street, probably on some poor bugger's car!

Just as we thought it was all over, a screaming wild pack of kids started running around the plaza following what looked like a flaming bull! As they got closer, we saw a man holding a papier mache bull, sparks flying around his head. Every few minutes, the man would shake the bull close to the ground, do a jig and send firecrackers into the crowds at ankle level. We all ran and hid behind each other, screaming at the top of our lungs. That is all but Chris, who decided to jump into the action and run with the bulls....and pigs.....and goats. A scruffy little dog joined the action, chasing the sparks. In the meantime, Jo and Rob took shelter in a record shop nearby. It was an exciting evening! We left just as the band warming up for the night's dancing.

Fireworks with the church in the background.

Here is a link to a video on Blue Moon's blog that captures some of the action.

The adventure continued as we took a wave while paddling off to Ladybug, soaking me entirely. They say “ Be careful what you wish for “. I was thinking I needed a swim to clear the sand out of my clothes and body parts when I fell into the water while trying to board Ladybug! The water was warm and I was fine but my glasses sank to the bottom. We had the presence of mind to drop our rock anchor with a float attached to mark the spot.

The following morning, Chris, Rob and Jo dived into 25 feet around the float to look for the specs. Visibility was only about 2 feet, so it took a lot of effort going down each time. Everyone gave up after about 6 dives each but Chris went down again. This time he used a stick to mark his track from the anchor, as suggested by Rob, and found the glasses on his third dive.Poor guy suffered from a headache for days as a result.

We were meant to leave a sacrifice to Neptune in Melaque as the next morning we woke up to find our gate lifeline missing. It must have worked loose during the heavy swells at night. Not having a clue as to when and where, there was not much point in diving for it. However, Chris went down a few times anyway, acting as a human fender when an old fisherman came to retrieve his net from under Ladybug. His panga bashed into our bow, nicking the gelcoat in several places. We took that as a hint to move and sailed out of Melaque.

We enjoyed a lovely beam reach sail to Chamela. The anchorage was somewhat rolly but we had a nice refreshing swim the next day before setting off to La Cruz. In light SW winds, Ladybug averaged 4-5 knots until it lightened in the evening. As the wind changed to light NW, we had to tack away from the land but averaged 2.5Kts. However, in the early hours, we were back to speeds of 5Kts plus in 10 Knots of NW wind.

Ladybug screamed into Banderas Bay at 6.5-7 Knots. It was the last day of the regatta and we heard some of the excitement on the VHF radio when the last race got underway. More about La Cruz and beyond in our next post.

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